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An itchy throat is a classic sign of allergies, allergic reaction, or early illness. Inhaled irritants can aggravate your throat, causing it to feel scratchy and uncomfortable.
Allergies are one of the most common causes of an itchy throat. An allergic reaction occurs when a substance called an allergen triggers an immune system response in your body. Examples of common allergy triggers that can cause an itchy throat include:
Allergies can range from mild to severe. An itchy throat can indicate a milder, yet uncomfortable, allergic reaction.
Inhaling pollutants can also lead to an itchy throat. These might include:
Infections, such as a common cold or strep throat, can start as an itchy throat before progressing to soreness and pain.
An itchy throat may feel:
An itchy throat feels uncomfortable, and it can feel as if you need to clear your throat frequently. It’s important to distinguish between the symptoms of an itchy throat and similar symptoms that may indicate other conditions. For example, an itchy throat does not feel rough or raw, or make you feel as if you can’t breathe.
While an itchy throat isn’t typically a medical emergency, it can be an uncomfortable symptom. If your itchy throat gets worse and is accompanied by wheezing, difficulty breathing, or painful swallowing, get immediate medical attention. Also seek medical care if your symptoms don’t improve with time or home remedies.
A doctor will diagnose the condition causing your itchy throat by first asking about your medical history. They will also ask what occurs when you experience your itchy throat. For example, if your itchy throat occurs after going outside, it could indicate an allergy to outdoor dust or pollen.
If your doctor suspects a food allergy, they may ask you to keep a food journal. In the journal, you’ll track the foods you eat and any symptoms you experience after eating them.
Your doctor also may recommend allergy testing. This can involve exposing the skin to small amounts of known irritants. If the skin reacts to a particular irritant, this indicates an allergy. Some allergy testing can also be done through blood tests.
Common irritants include:
To make a diagnosis, your doctor may also examine your throat for:
If your itchy throat is related to allergies, an antihistamine can help to block the body’s inflammatory response. Over-the-counter (OCT) antihistamines are available. If they don’t relieve your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medicine or one that works in a different way.
At-home methods for treating your itchy throat include drinking plenty of fluids. You may also want to gargle with warm saltwater and baking soda, which can help relieve inflammation.
Create the gargling solution by adding 1 teaspoon of salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to 8 ounces of warm water.
Using lozenges or throat sprays that have a numbing effect on the throat may also provide relief. These products contain active ingredients including:
If your itchy throat is caused by an allergen, avoiding that allergen can typically improve symptoms.
Avoiding known allergy triggers can help prevent an itchy throat. Take steps to prevent infection, including washing your hands frequently. This can help prevent itchy throat caused by common colds, strep throat, or other infectious causes.
Written by: Rachel Nall, RN, BSN
Medically reviewed on: Oct 25, 2016: Judith Marcin, MD
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